Postdoc Profile

Postdoc Profile: Juan Macias

Below we are going to delve into Juan Macias’ background, hobbies and research aspirations.

What are you investigating?

I am interested in the application of the human pangenome resources to advance our understanding of the genotype to phenotype problem. Particularly around regions previously inaccessible to us.

What are possible applications for your research?

The pangenome is a more representative reference for all of humanity. Leveraging it we can detect variants which were previously undetectable and we will be able to apply it to all populations of people equitably. So for example with the previous genome reference, if you have inherited mutations which are too diverged from the people who the genome reference were bult from, there’s a good chance we can’t detect your mutations. This means you lose that diagnostic information. What we are building with the pangenome will work equally well for all of humanity.

What are your hobbies outside of research?

I love my pets and I enjoy local Saint Louis running clubs (Happy’s running club). I also like making graphic art.

I have two cats. The smaller is named Minerva. The Larger one is named Aeolus. My dog is named Argos.

Where did you grow up?

I am from Zacatecas, Mexico originally and grew up partly in East Texas (Tyler area) on one of my family’s ranches.

When did you decide you want to be a researcher?

So, funny story, I sort of started doing a little bit of simple experiments before I even knew the concept of research. Growing up I lived in a rural setting and I had various naturalist type hobbies including keeping large ant farms. At some point, I just started conducting experiments on my ants. I would feed my ants a variety of things and my experimental process always started with a question like “I wonder what would happen if I fed my ants different things”. Through that process I realized that chilis, Capsicum, contain an insecticide/repellent. This is kind of the first scientific thought that I had: when I had a question and experimented with feeding the ants with different things. I basically kept the questions driven mindset and got a research job in college doing field research collecting aquatic turtles and tracking where they would move. And I just kept going and continued my career in research.

What’s your favorite meal to cook or eat?

Tacos de bistec or de carnitas.

What’s your favorite part of being a postdoc?

I enjoy working on interesting problems. I like the life I live where I can investigate interesting questions and find answers to them!

A holiday mural designed and completed by Juan and his teammates at the genetics department

What do you want to do after being a postdoc?

I want to be a PI. I want to do research and I love science. From my youngest years, I have had questions and I wanted to answer them. I just want to keep finding answers. That’s what I want to do with my life. It helps with humanity and it’s really fun for me! Ideally I would like to work for a research university in the south to be close to my family or in the Midwest.